In an era of so-called political correctness we often assume that the words spilling over someone else’s filters represent the true person they are. Our society condemns a slip of the tongue often without any investigation. It is ironic that we become so intolerant of perceived intolerance. When it is our own filters we are embarrassed and apologetic even if we were provoked. There is no delete key for the spoken word. We can only hope that the saying about time healing wounds is true even if there are situations where there can never be enough time for forgiveness.
In any aspect of human resources we are expected to be totally unbiased in our decisions, advice, and recommendations. Honestly getting in touch with our own annoyances and pet peeves is a good first step in a therapeutic cleansing of our filters. That part that remains unknown to us can scratch the surface and unleash someone else’s volcano. Our hidden agenda are usually not overt actions to deceive someone else. Some of them are hidden from ourselves and are a subconscious conditioned reflex action. Recognizing the obvious may be one step in asking ourselves the tough questions for discovering and analyzing our unknown hidden agenda.
- Racism – When someone is said to play the race card what does that mean to you? Be careful… your answer could indicate an unknown hidden bias. We all know that there is some sort of racial discrimination practiced almost everywhere, but it is true that some people bring up race as an issue when it is a diversion from the real issue. The truth is that it does not really matter if there is a bona fide problem… if someone believes there is a problem then there is in fact a problematic situation. One test of a hidden bias is your ability to discuss racial issues honestly with someone of another race. It is not so much a factor of courage if you are not afraid that something inappropriate will slip out.
- Sexism – When you discuss a matter as a “woman’s issue” is it really gender related or could it really be a “’parental issue” that has been arbitrarily assigned to motherhood. Some things related to being male or female are due to biological differences, but sometimes biology places us in an uncomfortable situation. There is no getting around the fact that men relate to men in the workplace differently than they do to women. And vice versa. There are fewer women in C-Suite positions than men, but is that reality the source of some women’s hot button or is it something more personal. Know yourself. If we do not look for equality in pay and other business related treatment of women and men then we fail at being unbiased.
- Sexualism – Sexual orientation is not a new factor for bias. In HR we create and administer policies without regard for the sexual preferences of employees or applicants, but that conscious action may mask hidden bias that may still lurk under the skin. Do you actively seek GLBT candidates for employment or is it just supposed to happen? This community has been stigmatized into hiding their sexual orientation and only in recent times has finally been able to be open about it. Even so, the cultural bias that called some activities taboo has ingrained concepts in our thoughts that are hard to erase.
- Pseudo-intellectualism – Elitism due to perceived intellectual superiority is probably more difficult to overcome than some of the more overt hidden agenda. You worked hard for your degree and have successfully crafted a track record to raise you above the masses. A common issue arises when earned excellence in your field of expertise gives you a notion that you are expert in other people’s areas as well… a PhD chemist is not an expert in human resources. Beyond the unconscious dismissal and disrespect for other people’s professions, how much do you relate to people who support you? Did you look at the waiter at that restaurant or was he just another faceless peon cluttering your life? We do not try to be rude intentionally, but it does happen and most of the time we are not even aware that it is happening.
- Anti-capitalism – Large corporations are constantly the target of political attack. Oil companies are for profit companies, but are somehow begrudged their livelihood. Only a small portion of company shares are owned by corporate management and private investors. Approximately 70% is held by mutual funds, pension funds and IRA’s. That is you and me. Pharmaceutical companies are another favorite target. The cost of developing a new drug is astronomical. The majority of attempts fail somewhere in the pipeline as too toxic or ineffective to move forward, making the real cost of a new drug almost 1 billion dollars over the patent life of 15-17 years. Businesses must make money to survive, but there is an anti-business climate because of current economic woes.
- Aestheticism – Beauty is often considered more important that any moral values. It is a fact that in hiring, an attractive candidate will have a greater likelihood of getting the job. Part of this is not unrealistic, because the beautiful people were more popular in school. This is where superficial looks feed the immature minds of students giving confidence, poise and leadership characteristics to the most popular. Is it any wonder that uber-confidence still shines though when the yardstick is not looks but talent? Is that a hidden bias in you? When you look across a crowded room are there some people who are invisible to you? If you are one of the invisibles, how does this make you feel?
- Nationalism – This is not the same as patriotism. It is a high school mentality that my team is better than your team. There is a serious political discussion regarding equality based on national origin or ethnicity, but in addition to the real problem are the ignored problems. Immigrations issues aside, how do you respond to a job applicant who struggles with the English language? Is that caused by intelligence or environment? Have you mistakenly referred to an Asian person as Chinese even though they are not from China? In the United States we have much to be proud of, but there is a real reason for the term “Ugly American” when we travel abroad. It is possible to be proud of your country without slighting someone else’s.
- Traditionalism - All of us have traditional values. These are the beliefs, moral codes, and mores that are passed down from generation to generation. They include religion or a stated form of anti-religious belief. Customs differ from country to country and are different in different regions of a country. New Englanders who have never traveled to the Southern US speak about Southerners as if they all have a country bumpkin impression. Those from the South, by the way, have a few words about the damn Yankees. Seemingly harmless misstatements of fact are hurtful. How clean is your accent? Do you unconsciously judge someone else by their mannerisms and accent?
- Behaviorism – The way a person acts can be consistent with our way of thinking or can be totally out of line. Being out of line is not always a bad thing because it could be representative of someone else’s norm. We all live in our little glass houses and armed with stones are likely to outwardly question or gossip about those who are different. What is your definition of strange? In a job interview, both candidates and interviewers come from different places and in this most important moment of communication need to behave “normally” according to the other person’s normal. We need to value the differences that people bring to a solution rather than prefer clones of ourselves.
- Other-ism – Everything else. There are not enough ism-labels to identify all the things that hide in the subconscious. A Prius driver may look at the SUV driver as a bad person because they studied the market and made a different decision. Have you planned for an event or meeting where food is served without considering the needs of those needing vegan or kosher food? They aren’t like you so they don’t exist in your conscious mind. There are other unconscious discriminatory thoughts spilling out because of superficial material triviality.
Studying these points and other thing that creep into our daily lives can give us a better idea of our unknown hidden agenda. If knowing the problem is half the battle what is the other half? Sincerely making a conscious effort to uncover and fix the problem is next. That this is easier said than done.
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